Although smallholder farmers are responsible for most agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of them remain poor and marginalised. A decade of economic growth throughout the East and Southern Africa region is reshaping food value chains as income, urbanization and demographics impact agricultural markets, but the opportunities for many smallholders, especially women, to benefit from these value chains remain elusive. One reason relates to failures of traditional approaches to innovation in agriculture, especially the top down, linear design of extension systems.
To increase adoption, recent agricultural innovation programs have created ‘coalitions of stakeholders’ to identify and address local agricultural development problems. These stakeholders form an innovation platform (IP): ‘a network of organizations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organization into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behaviour and performance’.
Evaluations throughout Africa suggest that IPs that engage local producer knowledge in a collaborative framework with value chain partners are more successful than traditional research and extension systems. This research focuses on identifying what makes value-chain IPs, innovation platforms that incorporate value chain development strategies, successful in terms of institutional, technological, market and policy factors, which determine IP performance and how the establishment of IPs can be most cost-effectively scaled up across a range of contexts.